As I write the fate of Edwulf is unknown to me. I hope for good news.
The headliner of day one, of course, was Edwulf’s owner, jump racing’s greatest friend, J.P. McManus. There is never any envy, is there, when he lands one of the big prizes? I have heard it said that when you see J.P. in the company of Jonjo O’Neill and A.P. McCoy, you are witnessing three of the nicest fellas on the planet. I have no reason to doubt the sentiment.
No man is humbler in victory or magnanimous in defeat than J.P. and it is comforting to hear A.P. say he delights in taking money off his rivals on the golf course. But I believe he is a legend in his own lifetime not for being a successful owner, having now won fifty races at the Festival, but because he is a very human individual. He cares about the people who work for him. He cares about the welfare of his horses. He cares for the sport.
At Kempton he was filmed seeing Barry Geraghty into the ambulance as he went off to have his injuries assessed. At Cheltenham he went down to where Edwulf was being attended to, wanting to ensure the horse received all the veterinary help available. It is a mark of the man that a man of the ilk of Aidan O’Brien, with his daughters, was also on hand, seemingly ferrying buckets of water to the stricken horse, and that Derek O’Connor also did not leave the scene.
Edwulf went into the National Hunt Chase with a favourite’s chance but he is a long way down the McManus pecking order of classy horses. But that did not matter yesterday. J.P. troubled himself to go see to the horse. Perhaps he knew young Joseph O’Brien required his support, his permission if the ultimate sanction need to be performed. But he need not have troubled himself. A conversation on a mobile phone would have sufficed. How many other high profile owners would have behaved similarly?
We, as a racing community, owe J.P. the same amount of respect and thanks as he has invested in the sport over the decades. It is now, perhaps, even though he would not think it either right or necessary, that either a statue is erected in his honour or a race of great distinction is named after him. We should not wait until he is no longer with us to recognise his contribution to our sport. J.P. makes better other men’s lives. It is his example that should be the example we use to demonstrate to the world outside of racing that this is a very humane activity.
My Racing Post has just arrived. Edwulf, though suffering a tendon injury, survived. He was suffering from dehydration.
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.